Report: Hezbollah increases support of Assad, sends fighters to Syria
Washington Post cites Lebanese sources as saying that the militant group has taken on an operational role in Syria; U.S. officials: Hezbollah expanded aid, did not yet send fighters.
Hezbollah has increased its support of Syria President Bashar Assad's battle with opposition forces, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, with Lebanese officials cited as saying that the militant group has even sent fighters to combat rebel troops.
On Wednesday, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsibility for twin explosions targeting the government's military headquarters in central Damascus earlier that day.
There were conflicting reports on casualties.
The key rebel group, which recently moved its command into Syria from Turkey, said that dozens were killed in the blasts.
But shortly after the attack, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zogabi said the blasts had caused "material damage," but no casualties.
The army said all commanders and officers inside the building, on Ummayad Square, were unhurt in the assault.
Speaking to the Washington Post on Thursday, both U.S. and Lebanese officials indicated that Hezbollah had increased its support of Assad's regime, with Lebanese officials claiming that the militant group was sending fighters to the war-torn country.
“Hezbollah has been active in supporting the Syrian regime with their own militia,” an unnamed Lebanese government official, affiliated with the anti-Hezbollah bloc, was quoted as saying in the report, adding: “They’ve been quite involved in a combat role, quite involved in fighting.”
Further citing Lebanese officials, the Washington Post report indicated that villages in Lebanese territories affiliated with Hezbollah in the country's east and south have already held what it said were quiet funerals for fighters killed in Syria, with families warned not to discuss the circumstances of their relatives' deaths.
U.S. officials, however, did not confirm that the group had an active combat role in the conflict, saying that while both Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have increased their involvement in Syria, there was no indication that they have taken on combat operations.
Syria's conflict, once a peaceful protest movement, has evolved into a civil war that the UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said was "extremely bad and getting worse."
Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old uprising against Assad.